Caroline Ellison slams ex Sam Bankman-Fried at trial: ‘He directed me to commit these crimes’

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Sam Bankman-Fried’s ex-girlfriend Caroline Ellison confronted the disgraced crypto titan in court Tuesday — matter-of-factly telling jurors that he bears the blame for deciding to steal billions in FTX customer funds. “He directed me to commit these crimes,” Ellison said in Manhattan federal court, during her highly-anticipated testimony at a trial where Bankman-Fried faces criminal fraud charges stemming from the November 2022 disappearance of $8 billion from his now-bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange. Ellison, 28, also set the record straight on why her on-and-off-romance with the fallen crypto king, 31, ended — accusing him of being emotionally distant and not devoting enough attention to their relationship during their time living together inside a $35 million Bahamas penthouse. “There was a general theme that I sort of wanted more from our relationship,” Ellison told jurors. “I sort of felt like he was distant or not paying attention to me.” The Stanford-educated math whiz disclosed that the pair first slept together in the fall of 2018, and went on to date for about a year, from summer 2020 to summer 2021. During the entirely of the relationship, Bankman-Fried “was also my boss at work, which created some awkward situations,” Ellison testified. Bankman-Fried — who was prone to crunching the numbers on every aspect of his life — bizarrely boasted while they were dating that there was a “five percent chance that he’d become president some day,” Ellison told the court. “President of what?” asked federal prosecutor Danielle Sassoon. “The United States,” answered Ellison. Wearing thin rectangular glasses, a mauve dress and a gray blazer, Ellison did not make eye contact with her former flame as she entered the packed federal courtroom in lower Manhattan just before 1 p.m. When Sassoon asked her how she knew the former crypto golden boy, Ellison said that they “dated for a couple of years,” later specifying that the relationship unfolded on and off between the summer of 2020 and spring of 2022. Ellison was then asked whether she committed crimes as the CEO of Bankman-Fried’s crypto hedge fund Alameda – which the feds say stole $8 billion of FTX users’ deposits to pay off lenders. “Yes,” said Ellison, who has pleaded guilty to her role in the scheme and is testifying in the hopes of receiving a more lenient sentence. Sassoon asked Ellison to describe Bankman-Fried’s involvement in the alleged scheme. “He was originally the CEO of Alameda, and after, the owner of Alameda, and he directed me to commit these crimes,” said Ellison, who spoke slowly and clearly during most of her testimony. Despite their whirlwind romance, Ellison testified that Bankman-Fried did not increase her $200,000 base salary after appointing her to run Alameda as co-chief executive in October 2021 — while the pair were on a “break,” Ellison said. Ellison did receive a bonus worth $20 million while heading the fund, she testified. But that sum, though staggering, is far less than what Bankman-Fried paid himself and FTX co-founder Gary Wang during the same time period. Bankman-Fried also denied Ellison’s request to own a portion of Alameda even after she took over as sole CEO, and continued calling the shots in the fund’s big decisions — including to use FTX customer funds without disclosing it, she testified. “I handled day to day decisions, but for any major decisions, I would always run it by Sam,” Ellison said. Ellison first had a bit of trouble identifying Bankman-Fried – who has shed his signature outfit of a T-shirt and cargo shorts for a suit and his unruly hairstyle for a new, shorter hairdo. But after standing up from the witness chair and looking around for a full minute, she finally picked out her ex-beau sitting with his lawyers at the defense table. “He’s over there, wearing a suit,” she said, gesturing at her former lover with her hand. Ellison walked right by Bankman-Fried to leave the courtroom for a lunch break and at the end of the day Tuesday Both times, Bankman-Fried started straight ahead and didn’t make eye contact with her. Ellison is just the latest former FTX insider to testify against Bankman-Fried. Wang – who has also pleaded guilty on fraud charges and is cooperating with the feds – has already testified that Bankman-Fried directed him to write computer code allowing Alameda to withdraw “unlimited” FTX user funds, with consumers left in the dark. Adam Yedidia, a former FTX developer, told jurors that he resigned from the company — days after texting his former boss, “I love you, Sam” — when he discovered that the firm repaid its creditors using customer deposits. “What Alameda did seemed like a flagrantly wrong thing to have done,” Yedidia testified. Ellison is expected to resume her testimony Wednesday morning.

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